Don’t tell my husband, but I heart Don Draper. Not just Don Draper, but Jon Hamm (the actor who plays Don Draper in the hit TV series Mad Men) as well. Of course. I heart them both. 10 minutes from now the final episode of Mad Men will air. I am shaking with anticipation that is part thrill at finally finding out what happens to all the characters, and part grief at bidding farewell. (For those of you who know nothing of Mad Men, there is some relevance in this post to my cancer journey)
I was a late bloomer when it came to my Mad Men obsession. Addicted friends were pushing, but I didn’t need another series. I was engulfed with the merriment of Breaking Bad. Why would I want fluff like advertising? Then one day I was stuck on the couch with a cold, John was gone and you’re not supposed to “Walter White” alone. So, a flask, I mean a flash of incite: I could try episode 1 of Mad Men – just to see what it’s like. I could watch just one and never crave another. So, I watched. And …
I was hooked. There was no way I could be a “social Mad Men-er.” No, I was a full on Mad Men-aholic. It wasn’t just because – well, have you seen Don Draper? No, there was more. I was horrified. The climate for the female characters (and African-American characters and…) was so abhorrent, so many scenes that left me thinking – I can’t believe they just said that, or did that. I couldn’t stop wondering about Peggy and Joan (the women working in a misogynistic ad agency). What would I have done in the same circumstances? What was it like for my mother at that time? Thank God for true social change, when years later the “normal” of the past is recognized as barbaric. Yes, we still have far to go – Mad Men reminded me of that, too. Regardless, I am so grateful to have grown up a woman in this day and age.
But back to Don Draper. See, by late October when I was a full fledged Mad Men junkie, I was going to have general anesthesia for the first time during a colonoscopy to take out a nasty hemorrhoid. This was my first surgery and I was nervous. BUT, Don Draper would entertain me for the two day recovery. Mad Men would be my medicine. Apparently, according to my husband, when I came to after surgery, but was still under the influence, I asked for Jon Hamm. “Where is Jon Hamm? I was told he would be here! I love Jon Hamm!” A few minutes later the surgeon said, “I’m sorry. But it’s cancer.” When she left the room, I blurted out, “Seriously? I can’t get a respectable cancer like breast cancer or lung cancer?! I have to get ass cancer?!” Immediately followed with, “Is Don Draper here?”
Three Days later we walk into the oncologist’s office and there on the wall from the magazine bin Jon Hamm is smiling at me. I said to my John, “This is a good omen.”
Two weeks later, my mother, also a Don Draper fan, promised that after my surgery we would go on a Mad Men bender. And sure enough, at an Ann Arbor hotel, in between my vomiting episodes, we melted into the world of falling silhouettes and hard liquor. It has been such a wonderful escape for me – both entertaining and thought-provoking. OK, I could have done without last week’s (SPOILER ALERT) “mother dying from cancer” episode, but I forgive them. Spending more time than I like to in bed the last 2 weeks recovering from chemo and the flu I surrounded myself with all things Mad Men – The writer’s interviews with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, the latest article on CNN about Jon Hamm, and so on. Hopefully after this run of chemo I won’t need another imaginary world to disappear to. So for now, I’ll just bid farewell with a toast to Don Draper and all the characters I love and love to hate in Mad Men: Bottoms Up!